There’s an old legend about Mister Rogers Neighborhood that explains a common ending to Fred Rogers’ well-received children’s show in which he always fed the fish in his aquarium before closing things down for the day. A young blind fan once wrote to Rogers and stated that she had heard he had fish on the set. She was concerned about the well-being of the fish because she couldn’t see him supplying them with food. From that point on, whenever Rogers fed the fish on the show, he would pause, look directly into the camera, and state with a smile: “I’m feeding the fish.” For most viewers, this was an unnecessary bit of exposition because they could clearly see Rogers feeding the fish. For the young blind viewer, it was a means of allaying her fears that the fish were not being fed.
Relating the above tale about a respected children’s show might seem like a strange way to begin a review of the not-at-all-for-children superhero spoof Hectic Knife (2016, Munrovia Pictures and Troma Team), but it makes about as much sense as the movie itself. Protagonist Hectic Knife (Peter Litvin) is a knife-wielding superhero who feels sorry for himself. He feels like he isn’t getting his due by simply saving random city folks from scum and baddies. This point is made clearer when he reluctantly rescues damsel in distress Frannie Glooper (Georgie Kate Haege) while she screams critiques at him about how badly he is performing. He finally does successfully rescue her, at which point Frannie decides that she is Hectic Knife’s new girlfriend and completely inserts herself into his life. He also suddenly gains a new roommate, Link (John Munnelly), who spends much of his time reading comics and critiquing Hectic’s lifestyle choices. Inevitably, Hectic Knife’s life begins to change. Along with the arrival of Link and Frannie, a brand new supervillain named Piggly Doctor (J.J. Brine) begins to emerge on the crime scene. It will ultimately fall to Hectic Knife to defeat him.
Directed and written by Greg DeLiso, with co-writing credit to Litvin, Hectic Knife lives up to its name. It is both hectic and stabby. As well, the filmmakers, cast, and crew know that they’re making a Troma-style film and make no attempts to turn it into anything else. All of the actors turn in purposefully wooden performances from a script that heavily relies on Fred Rogers’ fish-tale-style unnecessary exposition. Often, the characters robotically narrate the actions they’re performing on-screen. The film also occasionally critiques itself, as it does in the bagel scene that “isn’t funny and goes on too long.”
Readers who haven’t seen Hectic Knife and who are not familiar with Lloyd Kaufman Troma Team movies might consider the above paragraph to be critical. Let me assure you now that it is not. I enjoyed Hectic Knife for what it is: a farce that is not intended to be viewed as anything but a farce. It’s the equivalent of mashing up 4 a.m. Cartoon Network Adult Swim fare with the aforementioned Fred Rogers unnecessary exposition. No, it probably won’t win any prestigious awards, and most serious audiences will probably ignore it, but it’s still a fun watch.
Naturally, I do have a few issues with this film. For example, the entire thing is filmed at a 4:3 ratio in black-and-white. It’s a confusing choice. I am not certain if it’s intended to invoke the feel of campy 1950s and 1960s superhero television shows or if it is meant to feel like college student-produced shows that often appeared on local access channels in the 1980s and 1990s. One other problem I have with this film is its tagline: “Blood, babes, and… bagels?” The movie does contain all three, but if the point of that tagline was to invoke the overt sexuality in previous Troma films, the “babes” component could be a tad misleading. Yes, there are attractive women in the film. No, there is no nudity. That’s a shame in the age of video-on-demand and Netflix Originals, which offers more envelope-pushing comedy fare than this film in some ways.
Overall, Hectic Knife is a fun sendup of the superhero movie craze. It is worth a watch if you’re bored or depressed and in need of something silly, or if you’re simply a fan of campy genre spoofs.